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News Archive

Imutran / Novartis Study Brings False Sense Of Security - Risk Of Epidemic From Animal Organ Transplants Remains

The following statement is issued by Uncaged Campaigns in response to the publication in this week’s edition of the journal Science (20.8.99) of a study of 160 patients who had received live pig tissue.

Some reports claim that the study provides evidence to support the case that animal organs will not pose a risk to public health as a result of virus transmission from pigs to humans.

Dan Lyons, spokesperson for Uncaged Campaigns, says:

"The findings of this study are not a reliable guide to the risk of virus transfer in the event of xenotransplantation taking place. There are numerous problems with the design of the study.

  • It is too small - in statistical, public health terms, 160 people is a very small sample.
  • The tests employed are, it is generally accepted, not powerful enough to guarantee that any PERVs present will be definitely detected. The collection and analysis methods used could also impact the results.
  • It is universally acknowledged that there will be unknown pig viruses present which cannot be tested for reliably.
  • The numbers of cells (and therefore viruses) transplanted was much less than would be the case in the event of whole organ xenotransplantation.
  • None of the patients had received transgenic pig tissue. Imutran/Novartis’s xenografts would be transgenic. Virologists such as Robin Weiss have warned that the transgenic xenografts could increase the chances of a pig virus infecting a recipient and then the wider population.
  • The explanation given for the presence of PERV DNA in some patients, that pig cells have survived for up to eight and a half years in the bloodstream, is not reassuring. Retroviral infections can remain latent for many years before causing ill-effects. These kind of infections can then transmit undetected through the human population for many years, as the tragic example of HIV demonstrates.

Laboratory studies have already demonstrated that PERVs can infect human cells. Furthermore, there are several examples of diseases crossing from animals to humans with catastrophic effect . For example, the Spanish influenza epidemic of 1918 that killed between 20 million and 40 million people is thought to have been transmitted by pigs. Most new human diseases originate in animals, and xenotransplantation provides a uniquely efficient way of transmitting a new disease.

We fear that the results of this inconclusive study will be used by Imutran / Novartis in a desperate attempt to protect their multi-million pound investment in xenotransplantation, despite the abundant evidence already available which demonstrates the intrinsic dangers of the technology.

We hope that the UK Government and regulators around the world will resist ill-founded and irresponsible calls for clinical trials to commence. Their first duty must be to protect public health, not promote the commercial interests of the biotechnology industry. That means banning xenotransplantation."

Notes for editors

  • Uncaged Campaigns are the leading opponents of xenotransplantation in the UK. Through our public education work we have submitted 125,000 signatures to the Government calling for a ban on xenotransplantation, and the Health Secretary has received 20,000 postcards from members of the general public expressing opposition to xenotransplantation on public health and animal welfare/rights grounds.
  • Dan Lyons is a PhD researcher into the ethics of xenotransplantation, as well as directing Uncaged Campaigns project, Xenotransplantation Concern.
  • Uncaged Campaigns latest action against xenotransplantation took place in Cambridge, the home of Imutran, on 24 July this year. 400 concerned people from around the country joined together in a massive ring-a-roses (see 'A'Tissue!' story below). Ring-a-roses is a medieval children’s rhyme commemorating the devastating effects of the Great Plague. The aim of the event was to highlight the danger of creating a modern epidemic posed by xenotransplantation.
  • For more information about xenotransplantation, click here.

Uncaged Campaigns 26.08.99

Victory! P&G Spurned By RSPCA

Procter & Gamble's attempt to use the RSPCA to endorse it's new product Febreze (and falsely improve the company's public image) have been thwarted.

P&G and the RSPCA had been jointly conducting 'focus groups' to assess the public's reaction to this proposed collaboration. The first focus group involved RSPCA workers and volunteers. Some of them also happened to be Uncaged Campaigns supporters, and were understandably outraged that the RSPCA should be considering endorsing a major animal-testing company.

We spoke to the RSPCA on Thursday 26th August, who said that feedback from these focus groups and letters and e-mails sent by concerned members of the public who had be alerted by Uncaged Campaigns had persuaded the RSPCA that they could not work with P&G to promote Febreze.

Thank you to everyone who contacted the RSPCA urging them to spurn P&G's advances.

Angela Roberts & Max Newton, Uncaged Campaigns

Cat Farm Closes

Friday 13th proved to be unlucky for Hill Grove cat farmer Chris Brown and a great one for the Animal Rights movement, humanity and natural justice, and about 800 cats previously doomed to a life of pain, torture and death.

Christopher Brown, the owner the farm in Witney, Oxfordshire, which has bred thousands of cats for cruel animal experiments, finally did what all right-minded people had urged him to. Following a sustained two and a half year campaign (which united all animal rights and welfare groups, local residents and people from all backgrounds, ages and walks of life) Brown threw in the towel.The RSPCA arrived in the middle of the night to take away 800 innocent cats and kittens, saved from a future of unimaginable pain, fear and distress.

Displaying typical arrogance, Brown made wild accusations of violence against himself and his wife, yet also claimed that the campaign had had little effect and that he was simply 'retiring.' However, one cannot doubt the strength and impact of the Save the Hill Grove Cats campaign in ending this obscene cat-breeding business (the last in Britain). Congratulations and thanks must go to all those directly and indirectly involved in building and coordinating efforts to shut down Hill Grove farm.

There are now 800 reprieved kittens and cats in need of loving homes. Anyone interested in taking one of these very special creatures should contact the RSPCA on 0906 256 0256.

The success of this campaign has given all those actively opposed to animal experiments a great boost, and  those skeptical that anything can ever be stopped will have to think again.

News reports on TV, radio and in the press were all broadly supportive. However, all made reference to 'violent demonstrations' - the vast majority were peaceful, if noisy, affairs that one could, and did, take one's grandmother to. The media supported their assertion by stating that 350 people had been arrested and 21 jailed. However, taken against up to 1500 people at each monthly demo over two years (not to mention all those present at the weekly demos and vigils) the number of arrests pales into insignificance.

Radio 4's PM  programme carried an interview with Mark Matfield of the RDS (Research Defence Society) in which he justified Hill Grove by claiming that many of the cats are used in the research of cat diseases. However, when pushed by the questioner, he was unable to provide any examples or numbers involved. Furthermore, this seems a singularly bizarre argument in defence of experiments on animals. The main 'justification' for vivisection used by people such as Brown and Matfield is that humans are fundamentally different and superior to animals such as cats. Therefore, the wellbeing of humans supposedly takes precedence over that of animals, making experiments on latter for the benefit of the former fully justified. However, if a cat is being bred and reared in appalling conditions, and then subjected to cruel, painful and distressing experiments to benefit other cats, this argument (taking it on their terms) simply does not stand up at all. Notwithstanding such notions as justice, rights, compassion and humanity, the exploitation of one group of creatures by another who are of absolutely equal type and status is ethically and morally unnacceptable.

It was also claimed that closing Hill Grove was bad for animal welfare because cats would now be farmed abroad where welfare regulations were lless strict than in the UK. However, regulations and their enforcement in this country are almost useless (as evidenced by the paltry amount of visits by inspectors - often pre-arranged  several months before - and the pathetic slap on the wrists given to establishments that are shown to flagrantly breach Home Office guidelines on animal welfare - e.g. Huntingdon Life Sciences). Furthermore, just because something will go abroad if one stops the practice at home, does not justify the continuation of an abhorrent practice in one's own country. And besides, what about the idea (that we've often heard about in relation to other matters) that the UK can, and does, lead the way, and can be a beacon of ethical behaviour, for the rest of the world to follow ? (as was the case in the abolition of slavery and the slave trade..?)

Such ridiculous justifications by the RDS and their ilk, and desperate, false and hypocritical accusations of violence and 'terrorism' aimed at anti-vivisectionists (such as comparing the Save the Hill Grove Cats campaign to methods used by the IRA, as Anne Leslie outrageously did on Saturday's Breakfast TV news discussion) simply serves to highlight the complete moral bankruptcy of their position.

Hill Grove cat farm is no more, but there are many other campaigns needing the support of all the members of the public who helped Save the Hill Grove Cats.

Max Newton, Uncaged Campaigns

Procter & Gamble 'Policy Shift' Is Virtually Meaningless

On June 30 Procter & Gamble (P&G) (who have been the subject of a global boycott campaign initiated by Uncaged Campaigns and US group IDA -In Defense of Animals) issued a press release claiming that they "will end the use of animal tests for its current beauty, fabric and home care, and paper products, except where required by law."

They continue:

"This announcement covers roughly 80% of P&G's total portfolio, including color cosmetics, shampoos and hairstyling products, skin care products, tissue and towel products, laundry and dishwashing detergents, and household cleaners. This decision is effective immediately and in all countries where the company operates. Science and technology have advanced to the point where we can confirm the safety of these finished products through non-animal alternatives."

Mr Gary Cunningham P&G's Public Affairs Director wrote to us stating:

"This means that in future animal testing will only be used when required by law or to evaluate the safety of new ingredients and new to the world products for which no validated non-animal tests exist."

The US media and sections of the British press seemed to think that this was a major step forward by a 'company leading the way' in eradicating animal tests. Even PETA in the US has "gathered up its extensive campaign materials targeting Procter & Gamble's Tide, Charmin, and other products and will dump them into a trash can at a news conference."

However, it only affects finished products that are already on the market. Is this in fact any sort of real step forward at all? The lack of any concrete figures for animal use and the exceptions cited by Procter & Gamble lead us to suspect that P&G's announcement has more to do with corporate propaganda than any meaningful attempt to tackle the suffering and death they inflict on thousands of animals every year.

In his response to Mr Cunningham (below) Dan Lyons blew away the smokescreen...

Dear Mr Cunningham

Thank you for your letter and the copy of the press release from P&G’s Cincinnati headquarters, which I read with great interest.

Having read through our files, I can see that the announcement heralds the culmination of a lengthy process which has lead to the reduction and final elimination of animal testing for non-drug products. (In a letter to one of our supporters dated July 1997, P&G state: "we... have reduced our animal testing for non-drug and non-food products by 90% since 1984.") In order to evaluate the positive impact for animals that this policy change might have, I would be extremely grateful if you could provide me with figures for the numbers of animals used by P&G each year in this area of animal testing since 1984.

I note that this discontinuation of animal testing is limited as it only covers finished product testing for P&G’s "current beauty, fabric and home care and paper products." Obviously, I am saddened that P&G will continue to force animals to be used as test subjects "when required by law or to evaluate the safety of new ingredients and new to the world products..." Notwithstanding these exceptions, we do regard any steps made to reduce the numbers of animals used by P&G as a positive development.

However, I think that you will agree that without more information, it is hard for Uncaged Campaigns (or anyone else for that matter) to assess the true impact of P&G’s policy change. Specifically, I am concerned that the area of animal testing affected by the policy change may, in fact, represent a small proportion of P&G’s overall use of animals. The only way that P&G’s actions can be independently evaluated is for the company to provide overall animal use figures for every year since 1984. Coupled with the information requested in the second paragraph, this will enable the public to judge the true value of P&G’s cessation of animal testing for finished non-food and non-drug products. I hope that you will agree that this is a reasonable request for information on a matter which is of great public interest.

I will also take this opportunity to convey some of our thoughts on P&G’s overall animal testing policy. Ultimately, the primary reason for P&G’s animal testing is the role that it plays within P&G’s overall corporate strategy. If we look at the types of animal testing that P&G will continue to conduct, this will help clarify this point.

Testing "when required by law or to evaluate the safety of new ingredients and new to the world products..." clearly indicates the role of animal testing in the development of new chemicals for consumption in P&G products. The animal testing/novel ingredients connection was reiterated by Mindy Patton, responsible for Corporate Communications on the issue of animal research at P&G’s Cincinnati HQ, during a P&G Conference Call in March 1998 (we have a copy of the transcript), when she pointed to P&G’s world leadership in developing "new to the world ingredients" as a major reason for P&G’s animal testing practices in contrast to companies who do not test on animals.

So, I think that we can agree that it is the use of novel ingredients which leads to P&G’s animal testing.

If we leave aside the issue of whether animal tests can effectively determine the safety of substances for human use or misuse, we are still left with the dilemma:

P&G develops new ingredients and therefore tests on animals


P&G only uses ingredients with an established safety record, thereby avoiding the "requirement" to test on animals

Now, P&G has obviously come to the conclusion that it is in their interest to develop new ingredients, presumably because it believes that this will help maintain a competitive edge over other companies, thereby maximising sales and profits. Which brings us to the core of the issue:

P&G tests on animals because it believes that the development of new products will help maximise their profits

Even if, for the sake of argument, we set aside the question of whether P&G needs to test on animals to ensure the safety of new ingredients, this still begs the question of whether P&G needs to use new ingredients and develop new products in the first place. Obviously, P&G does not need to in any meaningful sense of the term. The existence of a new improved washing powder or shampoo does not justify inflicting pain and suffering on animals. To be frank, you would have to be completely warped to think that it would, and that’s why P&G’s animal testing is uncontroversially abhorrent, when one analyses the underlying motivations for it.

I would be very grateful if you would take the time to consider the analysis I have offered as an explanation of P&G’s animal testing, and our opposition to it. If you can offer any comments, clarification or corrections, I would be interested to hear them. I would be particularly interested in seeing the figures I have requested from you describing P&G’s animal use.

Yours sincerely,

Dan Lyons

We await their response. Meanwhile, the struggle continues. Boycott Procter & Gamble!

Dan Lyons & Max Newton, Uncaged Campaigns 19.08.99


Uncaged 1993-2012: This is the archived website of Uncaged. All information correct at the time of archiving - November 2012.